Sunday, October 14, 2012

When Is A Charity Not A Charity?

I've been considering using my powers more positively. I certainly don't regret exposing oddities through Twitter metrics and will likely continue to do so. But it would be nice to also build up as well as tearing down.

With that in mind I was happy to be followed by @MIHFIreland, a group who describe themselves as "a new Irish Charity set up with the sole intention of helping children Nationwide with serious illness [sic] & disabilities."

Broken link, inconsistent capitalisation and grammar aside, it seemed a worthy endeavour. I saw they had only 266 followers - perhaps if I ran some Twitter metrics I could help them get a wider reach?

With that in mind I started research. Their main focus seems to be taking children on a two day visit to Santa in Lapland for the princely sum of €999 per adult and €899 per child. Plus €150 registration, naturally. To fund these trips they encourage charitable-minded folk to raise €2,750 per person to take a holiday in the Philippines. Personally, if I sponsor someone, I expect them to suffer.

Curious to find out more I checked the Revenue's list of authorised charities for the Make It Happen Foundation and found them absent. My eyebrow raised in surprise I checked to see if their address was listed: perhaps they had changed names recently. No joy.

With that in mind I searched a little deeper. One of their directors, Mags Davis, is also listed as an employee of United Travel. You can view her LinkedIn profile for confirmation. A little more searching revealed a Mags El Fashny working for United Travel at that time as spokesperson, and another post shows the link between current and maiden name.

The other director, Jenny Russell, was a committee member for the Children to Lapland Appeal.

It seems United Travel, managed by Con Murphy, had some trouble before it was wound up. The were a commercial venture specialising in flying children to Lapland to meet the real Santa. They lost their aviation licence for having inadequate finances, having no evidence of chartering flights to cover their advertised packages and other, unspecified reasons. No longer allowed to trade they left many disappointed families queuing for refunds. I'm unable to find out if any were offered.

Further searching revealed the very same Con Murphy is now a spokesperson (perhaps more?) for the Make It Happen Foundation.

Digging a little further it seems this was not the first time Con and the United Travel alumni have turned their hands to a charitable enterprise. BockTheRobber has an excellent, detailed exposé of their earlier attempts, named the Children to Lapland Appeal:
"Here we have a limited company, which sends children to Lapland, and which avails of charitable tax relief, and whose director was also a director of a tour company which failed to meet its obligations to deliver paying customers to Lapland.  Not only that, but this company was refused a licence to operate tours, and yet, its principal director is now the treasurer of another company sending children to Lapland, and sending paying customers worldwide, and this company has no tour operator’s licence either." - Bock The Robber
Their charitable status was withdrawn and the company liquidated after they failed to pay a supplier 12,000 Euro.That was in February of this year (2012). According to their director's LinkedIn profile, Make It Happen Foundation started trading in March of this year. I won't be donating.

Update: Bock's piece linked to above has been updated with a discussion of the Make It Happen Foundation, information on the director's list, and a promise to contact the hospitals mentioned on their site. Do read it.

Update 2: I've written a followup piece.


Bock said...

They're listed as a limited company with the CRO.

A modest investment would reveal the directors' names.

Geoff said...

Pulled the company formation documents - directors work for a company formation house :-(